The breastfeeding mum’s guide to expressing milk

6 min read


Many mums use a breast pump to continue breastfeeding if they’re returning to work or just want some more flexibility around feeding time. It’s a way to give your baby all the benefits of breast milk, even when you can’t be there.  We put together a quick guide on how to express milk to explain the benefits of using a pump, tips for pumping away from home, maintaining your milk supply, and how to store breast milk safely.

The benefits of using a breast pump to express milk 


Most women start to express milk after 6 months, but there might be circumstances when you need to at an earlier stage. To express milk, a breast pump is used. A breast pump is a useful tool that can help you continue nursing throughout your breastfeeding journey. 


Some mums find expressing milk useful in the beginning, especially if their baby is having trouble latching as this helps to initiate their milk supply.


Once they’ve established breastfeeding, other mums find it useful to express milk so their partner can help with night feeds, or if they’re returning to work.


Whatever your needs, think of expressing milk as a way to breastfeed with more flexibility.

Get off to a smooth start


Whether you’re expressing milk at home for a night feed, or expressing at work, there are some key things to keep in mind to help things go smoothly.

1. Plan ahead

If you know that you’ll be away from your baby, start to incorporate a breast pump into your daily routine a few weeks beforehand. You’ll start a supply of milk for your baby and get used to using a breast pump.


2. Find a comfortable place

The more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to let down milk. Before you sit down to express milk, be sure to find a quiet and private space and don’t be afraid to add personal touches with things like lighting and music. It’s also a good idea to look for seating with plenty of support so you can sit upright. It’s easier to get your milk flowing this way.


3. Pump as many times as you would feed

To maintain your supply, be sure to pump milk at least as many times as you would normally feed. So, if you would normally feed three times during the time that you’re away, be sure to pump milk at least as many times as this. 

How to choose the best breast pump for expressing milk


There are several different types of pumps that you can choose from and different benefits to each. To find one that’s suited to you, look for something that’s designed to help you feel comfortable, and think about your overall lifestyle. Do you prefer something that’s designed for on-the-go? Or do you just need something that lets you express milk quickly?

Best for mums who want an everyday all-rounder

The Single Comfort electric breast pump is the more portable option in the electric range. You’ll get the same comfortable design and technology as the Double electric, plus a battery pack that allows you to pump if there’s no electricity outlet close by.

Best for mums who want a portable option for on the go, or occasional expressing

What manual breast pumps lose in time, they gain in portability. Want something that’s light and fits in your hand bag, or only planning to express every so often? A manual breast pump gives you flexibility and a simple backup option.

Other helpful things to have by your side


The hormone responsible for expressing milk is called oxytocin. It can be triggered in a few different ways, including seeing your baby. Many mums find it can help to have a photograph of their baby on hand if they’re expressing away from home to help with this. And you might also like to have breast pads on hand to protect your clothing from milk when you’ve finished expressing.

Storing your expressed breast milk


When you express milk be sure to freeze or refrigerate it. You can then thaw or warm it up when you’d like to feed your baby. Here are some guidelines to keep your milk safe. 


  • Use clean storage containers or freezer milk bags to store and organise milk
  • Label milk with the current date
  • Refrigerate milk at 0-4C (32-39F) for up to 48 hours
  • Freeze milk as soon as it's expressed for up to 3 months
  • Place it in the back, rather than in the door, to keep the temperature consistent
  • Use thawed milk transferred to the refrigerator within 24 hours
  • Don’t refreeze thawed milk
  • Transport milk in an insulated container with an ice pack


See more below ↓

You may need

Philips Avent

Breast milk storage cups


Philips Avent Breast milk storage cups


Store breast milk securely

Express, store and feed your breast milk efficiently, with our new storage cup. Sterilise and reuse the storage cup with the Philips Avent pump or teats—one system, many options! See all benefits

Unfortunately this product is no longer available

Store breast milk securely

Express, store and feed your breast milk efficiently, with our new storage cup. Sterilise and reuse the storage cup with the Philips Avent pump or teats—one system, many options! See all benefits

Preparing expressed breast milk


Use these tips to prepare a feed for your baby using expressed milk.


  • Thaw or warm breast milk under warm water or with a bottle warmer
  • Don’t use a microwave to warm up milk
  • Don’t warm it to boiling temperature
  • Shake to mix the cream of the milk
  • Test the temperature before serving. Somewhere between body and room temperature is best

A final note


If you’re new to pumping remember that you really can’t be too comfortable. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be to express milk. Sometimes this might be difficult if you’re trying to pump during a busy day at work, or you’re in a spot that you don’t know so well, so give yourself plenty of time to practise pumping at home, and go gently. You’ll soon get the hang of it.

Read more on this topic

Do you want to learn more about breastfeeding?


Download the Philips Avent Breastfeeding Guide to learn all about the essentials, from how your baby already knows how to breastfeed to what to do in the moment of feeding.

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